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When I was growing up, my mom told me something that ended up impacting the way I approach my entire career (which is helping students get the results they need for TOEFL iBT).
She used to tell this story about how when she was a kid, she went to Catholic school. Her teachers were nuns.
“There was this one nun who taught us… When I didn’t understand, she would repeat the same thing, louder. If I continued to be confused, she just said the same thing louder and louder.”
My mom would laugh about it, so I would laugh about it. At 9 or 10, I was still a bit too young to understand what her point was. What was my mom really trying to tell me?
“That nun didn’t have the creativity to think of another way to explain things. So she would just repeat the same thing until she was yelling. Being louder doesn’t help someone understand. Saying it a different way helps.”
And then my mom told me something that I have never forgotten…
Students don’t fail.
I can’t count how many times my mom told me that as a kid. And she would always say it with a sort of mischievous smile.
Her attitude made me so excited about learning. Could we discover the solution to the puzzle?
When I look back at my childhood, it is clear that her message became one of the defining principles of my life.
I never pretended to understand something when I didn’t. I wanted to understand. I needed to understand. And when I didn’t understand something, it drove me crazy.
So, I would ask questions. A lot of questions. I always believed that I should be able to understand something, if it was explained the right way. And because of that, I challenged my teachers.
And then, after college, I became a teacher. If you guessed that I have held myself to a high standard, you’re right. I have.
When I started teaching English as a Second Language in Turkey in 2008, I re-learned everything I thought I knew about English grammar. (I thought I would be learning Turkish! Ha! Actually, I was figuring out how to explain why “however” and “but” and “although” were different from each other. Or how to use Past Perfect in a natural way.)
I never laughed at or blamed my students for not understanding. When they didn’t understand, I never repeated the same thing louder. I would find different words. Or if words were confusing, I would use pictures and symbols.
I could still hear my mom saying with her mischievous smile, “Students don’t fail. Teachers do.” A good decade later, that message kept encouraging and motivating me.
It was my personal mission to find different examples or another way to explain.
So I would leave the classroom and mull over a problem. Sometimes it would take a few hours. Other times it would take days or weeks.
Every time I found the right way to explain a concept to students, they would learn!
When I started teaching TOEFL iBT in 2010, I discovered new challenges that no one seemed to have answers for. Because my students needed to get Speaking scores of 26+ and Writing scores of 24+ on TOEFL iBT, we had to change their memories. Their careers and the ability to earn significantly more money depended on it!
So I asked my colleagues and leaders in my industry:
How do we destabilize fossilized mistakes?
How do we interrupt an old habit to change someone’s performance in the moment?
And when they shrugged their shoulders (because they didn’t have answers) and when I couldn’t find any resources to guide me, I started creating my own methods and protocols.
Students often say things like, “I’m too old” or “Getting Speaking 26 on TOEFL iBT is impossible for me. Maybe other people can. But I can’t do this.”
The truth is that so many students who are frustrated and stuck can actually move forward.
You will see the results you need when you and I change your conditions for learning. This is a piece of advice that one of my students wanted to share with you in her exit interview after she got her TOEFL iBT scores:
Stop thinking that you didn’t pass because you’re not smart enough.Svetlana, Pharmacist who scored S26 after years of struggling
I admit it. I was obsessed with getting results for Svetlana in 2015. I’m obsessed with getting results for you now. I have never stopped wanting or needing to find “a better way.” It’s just the kind of person I am. I get bored without positive growth and improvement.
It is the reason why I created programs like Right Notes, Advanced Speaking Guide and 24+ Writing.
It is the reason why I began doing a specific process called Score Analysis before my students started learning new information.
It’s the reason why, in 2015, I started training ESL teachers how to teach exams like TOEFL iBT.
And it is the reason why, after all these years of teaching traditional lessons, I invented a totally new service model called S26.
My new service model, S26, gives you
unlimited strategy, motivation and classes
to get your target scores
and be completely done with TOEFL iBT…
as soon as possible.